Saturday, 11 September 2010
Flooding and Mudding
We started with What is Hot? - now for What is Wet?
When I arrived here in April, the preoccupation was the heat – how to get by from one cold shower or cold drink to the next one. In Burkina, nothing is by halves, and now it is well and truly the rainy season. I don’t know how to describe the rain, really – it is heavier and stormier than any I have ever seen. Some days it rains heavily for several hours. The streets empty of people and fill with water. If the roadside drains are blocked – which they often are – the water swirls down the street, carrying with it whatever debris is lying around. You can get soaked to the skin in the shortest distance. It's stormy and windy as well – trees have come down, and so have some of the less well built houses. In between rain it is humid – clothes take a long time to dry, things like salt and sugar take up the moisture and become soggy and saturated. Because people don’t travel in the rain, something of a Dunkirk spirit builds up – people marooned in an office over lunchtime without any food, stuck together on a terrace or under a tree…
But this week the rain in Bobo was extreme even by local standards. My bike, parked outside in the road, accumulated loads of debris in a few minutes; further down, the road on which I live was flooded and firemen were using a little boat to help people. Many roads were blocked by floods and one small child was swept away and drowned. For images, try:
Parochially, our office flooded to almost knee height. All the water from the street seemed to be flowing through our yard, thanks I think to blocked drains elsewhere – and could not get out the other side. Fortunately it was in the day time and people – stranded by the storm – were there to move the computers and other valuable equipment on to high shelves, and to turn off the electricity at the mains before the water reached the level of the sockets.
So it could have been much worse. I had escaped for lunch just before the downpour started; by the time I came back for the afternoon, cars, motos and people were still knee deep in water, even though the peak had passed (you can see the tide mark on the wall in the pictures). As it subsided, the flood left behind a thick layer of red mud. By next day, largely thanks to the valiant efforts of the gardien, it was mostly cleaned up, but there are still soggy papers where the water got into desk drawers, and material in the store rooms – booklets, leaflets, costumes, props etc – all got soaked and some are damaged. 3 of the 4 motos on the terrace would not start – one was leaking oil ominously; neither of the cars parked in the yard seemed inclined to go – water had risen higher than the exhaust pipe and penetrated the doors. Not sure yet what the impact will be on the peanut and okra crops, which were inundated. And of course there is a rather damp smell – unsurprisingly.
So Thursday saw files, papers, puppets, costumes etc spread out to dry – but the sun did not oblige and everything had to be brought in before the next lot of rain, which came while the digging of a large hole out the back, to try to prevent any repetition, was still in progress. On the whole the reaction to our plight was lots of laughter, rolled up sleeves and trousers, and a focus on how much worse it could have been – with endless reiteration that ‘c’est pas facile’. Not, of course, laughter at what had happened elsewhere in the town, with loss of life and home.